Our fourth Surge Spotlight is Kelsey McClure. Kelsey has played in Finland, France, and of course, with the Surge. Vulnerable and authentic, Kelsey lets us in on the not-so-glamorous aspects of playing overseas, who her superwoman is, and more. Click the link above for video highlights of Kelsey’s interview, including the “What’s In The Bag?” challenge.
(The following interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity).
It’s been a long day. What are three things that made you smile today?
- Waking up and having the opportunity for growth
- The food I ate today…I made some FIRE salmon.
- My family. I talk to my parents every day and I’m always going to get a smile from the fam.
Yes, it’s no secret that you are really close to your family. What was your upbringing like?
I’m from a very small town called Muskogee, Oklahoma. It’s tiny, but everybody’s heart is in it. You can’t walk outside without somebody encouraging you. My parents have been married for 30+ years. In our home, we had to strive to be great and we also had the opportunity to fall down because we knew we were going to pick each other up. In cohesiveness, my parents inspire me the most. My mom has overcome a lot, including three triple bypass surgeries on her heart. She’s a warrior. I look forward to seeing her every single game, and she’s never missed a game, no matter what she was going through. She keeps me motivated and encourages me because I see all the things she does daily to be there for us. She’s my superwoman.
It was tough to find the time to sit down together. Can you walk me through a day in the life and the demands of playing professional basketball at the same time as working as a business development representative for Exterro?
It’s very timely. I typically wake up early, get some breakfast, lift weights with the team, and then get home and freshen up for work. I work in Chesterfield, which is about 30 minutes from where we practice. I’m running from place to place a lot of time. It can get your adrenaline going a little bit but it can also make you a little bit antsy, so you have to stay grounded.
How do you maintain your well-being through the busyness of that?
If you don’t do what you need to sustain your energy, you’re going to crash. I try to stay present on a day to day basis. I have a lot of energy, but I also like going home and decompressing. It’s always good for me to sit down and reflect on my day and what I need to do tomorrow.
Right. We’ve talked about how you write and journal often. How long have you been writing?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing since I was very young. My dad can turn poetry into art and from a young age, he would give me books and have me put words together because I wanted to be able to write like him. I like to jot down things and speak over my day, myself, and others. I take time to journal and both reflect on my days and give myself something to look forward to the next day.
I creeped on your Instagram a little bit. What are Tap Ins With Kels?
Tap Ins are motivational talks about day to day scenarios. Most of the time I am speaking about either something I’ve been through or something that I feel like somebody might need to hear about communicating or coping with emotions. All the Tap Ins have something to do with being real with yourself and being better than you were the day before.
What inspired you to start Tap Ins?
A lot of friends and family told me I had something that the world truly needed to hear. I like to think that the things I communicate about give others the opportunity to reflect on themselves. If you are dealing with an issue and you’re scrolling on social media, maybe it’ll help if you see someone who is talking to you about real life scenarios and how you can better balance yourself and motivate yourself.
You received a range of accolades at Arkansas Tech and you played professionally in Finland, France, and of course with the Surge. What are you most proud of on the basketball court?
I’m most proud that I didn’t give up. I held back from a lot of opportunities while I gave family things attention and dealt with some personal things. A lot of people take it for granted, but the opportunity to be on the court is a blessing for real. For God to bless me and after everything I went through, still put me in the position to do what I love is super dope in itself. I’d be lying if I said this isn’t difficult to talk about.
What was your experience like overseas?
The first year overseas is rough. Yes, you’re doing what you love and you have so many happy days where you’re in the space of “wow, I’m doing what I want to do” in a whole different country and there are people who are here to watch me play. It’s amazing, but at the same time, it’s a culture shock. You’re in a different world. You want to push that button just for a little bit and get a home cooked meal, or have a normal conversation (normal as in your state of what you’re used to). There was a teeter totter of making the best of the opportunity to do something that has been so deeply rooted in my heart since I was young and being away from family.
You’ve been with the Surge for 5 seasons now. What brings you back?
The family atmosphere and the grit and growth I’ve seen over the past few years bring me back. I’ve loved my time here. There are so many different parts that go on behind the scenes and they take a special type of person to get done. I can truly say hats off to Khalia for what she’s done with this organization. She built it from the ground up and established a rapport around St. Louis. Every year it gets greater and better and the experience is just that much more worth it.
What drives you? What is pushing you to win the chip this year and bring the trophy back to the Surge?
I’m a competitor on and off the court. I’m driven to be better for myself and the people around me. One of my most important roles this year has been to show leadership through my smile and my contagious vibes of positivity. If I can smile about the things that are going on, and the next person can do the same, we can build camaraderie and play for a bigger purpose. It always feels good to be around such an amazing group of women. Each Surge roster I’ve been on has been impeccable and each has had its own twist and was what we needed during that time of the season. Having all new sisters this season has had its ups and downs, but we’ve been trying to find a balance and right now, we’re really bringing it together.
I agree. There’s a special feeling around this team.
This is a young group, but we’re go-getters and we stay on each other’s tails. I’ve expressed this to everyone, but I just have this great feeling about us and I can’t even really explain it. It’s just something I feel and being one of the two vets on the team has been super special because I’ve witnessed this group try to find cohesiveness in a time of turmoil, and it feels so good. I’m super excited to see how the season will end.
How would you define who you are as a player and teammate?
As a player, I’m going to give you energy and aggressiveness. If you look at any of my highlights, you can see the emotion and passion I play with. I want anyone who watches me to walk away feeling like “that girl truly loves the game of basketball and loves to work hard for the people around her”I try to be that light everywhere. Transitioning to more off the court, I want to be a person you can confide in, a person you can talk to, and a person you can trust. Whether I’m with a teammate or a friend, I’m poised, very communicative, and a luminous personality in one little jumbled up ball. I try to be that light everywhere and someone who people see and think “wow, that’s a person I could grow with”.
This year you have really stepped into a leadership role. What are 2-3 things you are focused on as a leader right now?
The most important thing has always been for me to lead by example. A lot of times you don’t have to say much; as long as you are setting a good example, people will follow suit. This year, being one of the two vets, my role has been to make sure that we have a standard that we’re sticking to and we are holding each other accountable. It’s also been to bring that energy and light into a space. We all have personal lives. If I can give somebody a hug, slap their hand, or make them smile for a minute, then it’ll carry over in all the right places. We are a young group, so I try to challenge them every day, make sure they feel like they are just as important as everyone else on the team, and inspire them to be better.
In her interview, Brittany Carter (Britt) said you were her best friend. Tell me about your friendship and the bond you’ve built over the past 3 seasons together.
Britt’s my girl. When I first met Brittany, I was new to St. Louis and we needed that season to first and foremost, cross paths and meet each other. Then, from the 2021 to 2022 season we really aligned and bonded. We were able to grow with each other in a deeper way because we already knew each other, and we stayed in the gym together. Going to the gym is therapy for us. We’re working on our craft, but at the same time, we’re talking about everything and communicating with each other. Learning about Britt has been so special. She is one of my very best friends. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her on and off the court and she is one of the most amazing people I’ve met so I’m happy God put us in this position. Circling back to this season’s team, we took time to learn about each other, understand each other’s livelihood, and understand each other’s “why”. When you truly understand one another, it makes it so much easier to play together, and that’s what’s been so special about this group.
When younger people look at you, whether it’s in your personal life, younger teammates, or fans, what do you want them to see?
I want them to know it is truly okay to be yourself. It’s okay to walk in the room and if you want to smile, you can smile. If you want to be goofy, you can be goofy, and if you want to hug the people next to you, do that. It’s so easy to get wrapped up doing things that are cool or fit to society. I’ve always had better turnouts by being myself, and getting to know people for themselves and them taking the time to get to know me. Again, when you’re looking at me I want you to see somebody who is always a burst of energy and a sense of comfort.
As a person who is younger than you, I can say I 100% see that in you. You always have a big smile on your face. What does your “trust the process” bracelet mean to you?
I’ve had this for a very long time and I never take it off. This is probably my fourth one, because they wear and tear, but I get the same one every single time. It reminds me to continue to walk my path and trust where I am. On my worst days, it’s there to remind me that you have to go through it to grow through it and whatever I’m going through, I’m okay. Hard times are natural. They’re a part of life. Every time I’ve trusted the process, I’ve been in a better predicament because of the faith that I had.
Your first year out of college, you coached college basketball. Where were you coaching and what did you take away from that experience?
I coached at West Georgia University and learned a lot. That was one of the times my mom had her triple bypass surgery and I was absolutely not going overseas. I wanted to make sure that I could be in a position to get to her and to be with my family. Coaching elevated my game because I was able to see things from a different lens. All the little things that coaches yell about didn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. Being a teacher of the game instead of a student was eye opening. My respect has always been there for coaches, but this just blew it out of the water. It was a super dope experience.
What has your experience been with the mental aspect of the game? What about mental health in general?
Mental health is super important overseas. Overseas, not everything’s perfect by any means. In Finland, you woke up and it was dark. You left the gym and it was dark. So, that’s all you’re seeing and you are so far away from home. It can wear on you, and beat the body down, and beat you mentally. You have to find ways to pick yourself up. I’ve navigated through life by learning different ways to cope with the things that are going on without being in a negative space. A lot of prayer, a lot of journaling, a lot of reading, a lot of meditation, yoga, etc. I really try to find balance in my time because not everybody can be there every second. My parents were on the other side of the world when I was overseas. It took a lot of perseverance. Mental health is so important because no matter what you’re going through, you have to be able to communicate in a healthy way. If you communicate in an unhealthy way, that can start to deteriorate your character, because you don’t know how to effectively communicate without rattling and shaking chains. I’ve truly embarked on this journey of playing professional ball and in a world of chaos, finding my center and my calmness. If you learn how to ground yourself, then you can get through anything. It takes a lot of perseverance.
It takes a lot of perseverance, but it’s well worth it. Are you ready for a game of “What’s In The Bag?”. I’m going to put various items in this bag and blindfolded, you have to reach in and determine what you are holding.
Oh, man, Casey. You’re going to give me some crazy stuff in this bag.
The crazy stuff in the bag:
Kelsey guessed 6 out of the 7 items in the bag correctly. She’s clearly been with the Surge for a long time. Click the link at the top of this article to watch the video version of What’s in the Bag!
Evidence by her What’s in the Bag score, Kelsey is Surge through and through. She’s redefining winning by focusing on uplifting others and spreading light with her contagious smile. Check our website and socials for upcoming Surge Spotlights! From now until our home closer on July 30th, spotlights will be posted daily.